Important Tips for Constructing A Post-Frame Building

December 30, 2014

Important Tips for Constructing A Post-Frame Building

Looking to for a new building for crop and tractor storage, recreational vehicles, or just for an extended garage? No matter what the reason, if you are wondering how to build a post-frame building, there are engineering facets, building codes and other critical items to keep in mind.

Post-frame buildings are engineered with wood frames, and use laminated columns instead of steel or concrete to support the  roof structure. Compared to some other building types, post-frame buildings are a relatively simple concept.

But whether you are doing it yourself or contracting a builder, there are many things to note when tackling this ambitious project.

“Foundations” of Post-Frame Building Construction

No matter what type of post-frame structure you are building, there are several important items to consider.

We’ll list them here, followed by specific information about four different types of post-frame structures: suburban, commercial, equestrian and agricultural.

1. Understand the building codes of your city or state. Codes vary depending where you live and per type of building. For instance, a commercial building will have different design requirements than a simple storage space, due to it having a greater people occupancy.

Look up your state or city’s building codes here [link:].

2. Make sure your structure is strong enough to handle the weather and conditions of your location. This means assessing snow loads, wind loads, and soil conditions.

Figuring out these environmental conditions and stresses will determine which materials you use, how these materials are engineered to fit together and how columns (posts) are placed into the ground or attached to the foundation.

3. Building a structure is about how you put it all together. Anyone can buy strong trusses and columns meant to withstand heavy winds or snow loads.

But if your building is not engineered properly — if that strong truss is not properly connected to that strong column, and that column is not properly embedded into the ground or attached to the foundation — your building will not withstand those rough winds after all.

Now let’s take a look at some of the nuances of the specific structures.

Suburban buildings (i.e. garage, “man cave,” workshop, storage, toy shed, home, cabin):

What to keep in mind constructing a suburban post-frame structure

  • Consistency. Constructing a suburban building typically entails achieving a certain look. You may want to match it the aesthetic of your nearby house, for instance, or to other buildings in the same area.Keep this in mind when choosing the design, size and decorative details of your building.
  • Windows and doors. Because suburban buildings are typically used more than storage buildings, you should select windows and doors  that will suit your needs for access and ventilation.Windows and doors should be insulated to prevent heat  transfer and  designed “tight” to keep cold air from flowing through the cracks (or warm air during the summer months.)
  • Ventilation. Make sure you have proper ventilation to dispel any vehicle exhaust.
  • Electricity. If you will be storing a boat or an RV that would require a garage door, consider installing electricity to have an automatic garage door opener.Electricity also makes sense if you want lighting, a refrigerator or television in your space.

Commercial buildings (i.e. retail store, church, municipal, office, mini-warehouse):

Here is what to keep in mind constructing a commercial post-frame structure

  • Codes. Commercial buildings are subject to specific code requirements due to a frequent people occupancy inside of the building. Again, read about your state or city’s codes here [link:].
  • Strength. Codes usually require commercial buildings to have higher strength requirements to ensure extra protection for the assets inside.Make sure your building will withstand the extremes the elements will put it through. You do not want see anyone getting hurt or assets damaged.

Equestrian buildings (i.e. horse stalls, riding arenas, training facilities, run-in sheds):

Here is what to keep in mind constructing an equestrian post-frame structure

  • Horses. Your buildings plan is dependent on the number of horses you will house.How many stalls will you have? How much extra space will you need? Do you want a tack room to store saddles, bridles, and other equipment? Do you want to have an area for washing your horse?  How about a rider’s lounge?The answers to these questions dictate the design, size and finishes (flooring, walls) of your space.
  • Ventilation. Because animals’ lungs are typically larger than human lungs, they omit a lot of moisture. This, in addition to animal sweat and waste, can lead to a build-up of moisture, not to mention nasty odors. Ventilation can be passive or powered, but make sure it’s adequate to remove moisture and keep air fresh.
  • Access Points and Movement. Dutch doors are the standard for outdoor access from stalls. If you have multiple animals, leave space for a large aisle.The extra room comes in handy when a horse needs to pass by another horse or person, or  if another animal acts out because it is frightened.
  • Food Storage. Adequate storage space for food and a water source is essential.

Agricultural buildings (i.e. tractor, crop or chemical storage, dairy, livestock confinement):

Here is what to keep in mind constructing an agricultural post-frame structure

  • Usage. Determine the use of the building. Storing tractors, chemicals or crops? The specifics will influence the design. If you have offices or workshops attached, the space will need to be lined and insulated.  Establish all the possibilities upfront.
  • Dimensions. It is critical to think ahead when choosing dimensions for your access points. Make sure you have enough width and height not only for the tools and equipment you have now, but for future purchases.Farming equipment is only getting bigger, so plan ahead.

Constructing a post frame building is an undertaking as big as the structure itself.  You must understand codes, assess environmental conditions, choose the correct dimensions and aesthetics and engineer it properly.

Make sure you have ample time, resources and, most importantly, patience.

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